MnDot equips its snowplows with video cameras
Published 10:13 am Thursday, February 2, 2017
MnDOT recently announced that some of the agency’s 838 snowplows are equipped with cameras that show real-time road conditions along plow routes.
“The plow cams are another way for travelers to make good decisions about their travel plans during the snow and ice season,” said Kelly Braunig, 511 program manager. “If they go on the 511 site and see that travel is not advised, they can actually see an image of the road the cameras take as the plow is traveling. Seeing is believing.”
According to a press release, travelers can already see road conditions on major highways from the Road Weather Information System, which is also part of 511. These are fixed cameras at 97 locations across the state that show live rotating photos. While the RWIS cameras show a small area of the road, the plow cams show real-time road conditions as snowplows plow their routes.
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“The RWIS and plow cameras are both used for maintenance purposes, and the public also benefits,” said Steve Lund, state maintenance engineer. “They give maintenance managers and supervisors a quick snapshot of what’s going on in the field but the plow cams will show the road conditions from the driver’s seat along a route.”
The plow cams are available on the 511 website’s full-featured and streamlined pages and the 511 app. They are also available on the “Personalize Your 511” feature, which is on the full-featured and truckers’ pages.
To access the plow cams, go to www.511mn.org and click on “plow cameras” on the left menu. A window will open to show photos and a map where the plow is. Underneath the current photo and map is a “film strip,” showing images every five minutes. The camera will activate when the plow is going at least 10 miles per hour or based on other filtering criteria.
Photos have captions that give the plow number and the date, time and location of the plow. Images will be displayed for two hours. If a new image is not taken for 15 minutes because, for example, a snowplow has stopped to refuel, the snowplow icon will be removed from the map until the plow is active again.
The active trucks displayed on 511 only represent a portion of MnDOT’s fleet for snow and ice and other maintenance activities. Not all of the cameras are fully implemented in the trucks, but 200 cameras were purchased for this winter season. MnDOT is in the testing stage this season, which will allow the agency to make decisions on whether to install additional cameras.
“All the new features we’re putting on 511 come down to intelligent transportation,” said Braunig. “We want to be on the cutting edge of that. If motorists can just pick one or two features to use, they can make better travel decisions.”